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BILL DWYRE

Manny Pacquiao's fists are loaded, and his bouts are a lock

With his second-round destruction of Ricky Hatton, Pacquiao continues to cement his reputation as the world's best fighter, pound for pound.

May 03, 2009|BILL DWYRE

FROM LAS VEGAS — Manny Pacquiao can no longer be identified as a boxer. Lethal weapon, maybe. Or destroyer missile. Whatever the definition, he is unquestionably the sport's top gun.

What he did to Ricky Hatton on Saturday night, in a boxing ring at the MGM Grand Garden, in front of a crowd of 16,262 and millions more all over the world watching on pay-per-view, was mostly mayhem. The man from Manchester was manhandled.

British fans who swoop down on this city every time Hatton fights -- which is three times since December 2007 -- serenaded him into the ring as usual, with the now-annoying version of "Winter Wonderland" that begins: "There's only one Ricky Hatton."

They were right. He was the only one who ended up on his back in the middle of the ring.

The fight summary is one paragraph. Pacquiao knocked Hatton down twice in the first round, dominated the second and caught Hatton with a vicious left hook as the round ticked down. Hatton's eyes rolled back and his body fell, like a sack of potatoes, flat on his back. Referee Kenny Bayless knelt over him for several seconds, then waved his hands, with one second left in the round, to signify that the fight was over.

The aftermath was a bit scary. Hatton didn't move right away, and soon there were many people with concerned looks on their faces, kneeling and hovering. Hatton may have been on his back longer than he was on his feet during the fight.

Eventually, they brought his stool to the middle of the ring and got him on it, and a few minutes later he left the ring under his own power, waving feebly to a crowd of Brit fans who may have been driven to drink by the result. Of course, any result would have driven them to drink.

Pacquiao, the Filipino powerhouse whose record went to 49-3-2 (with 37 knockouts), weighed in Friday at 138 pounds and went to 148 by fight time. Hatton, now 45-2-0 (with 32 knockouts), weighed in at the limit of 140 and gained 12 pounds by fight time.

A measure of how dominant Pacquiao has become is that this victory marked his fourth different weight-class win in the last 14 months. His previous conquest, of boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya at 147 pounds, sent De La Hoya into retirement. Hatton is only 30, two months older than Pacquiao, but may be pondering a similar path. The pubs of Manchester are a lot safer than Pacquiao's left hand.

Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, now the pound-for-pound best corner man in his sport, pretty much called the shot again, just as he had against De La Hoya on Dec. 6. He said Pacquiao would knock Hatton out in the third round. Pacquiao apparently had earlier dinner reservations.

"This fight was no surprise to me," Roach said.

The star trainer always seems to have a secret strategy, and he revealed afterward that, for this one, he had watched hours of film of Hatton -- "I knew him better than my own fighter," he said -- and realized that Hatton was wide open for the right hook.

"Hatton pumps his fist before he throws," Roach said. "We also knew he'd be looking for the left," Pacquiao's main weapon.

The first knockdown in the first round came via a right, the second with a left. Hatton had actually survived somewhat better in the second, despite Pacquiao's quickly evident superior hand speed, foot speed and punching power. But the left that finished him started at about 7 o'clock, landed on Hatton's face at about 12 noon and made the likely obvious result official.

Hatton didn't attend the post-match news conference, because he was taken to Valley Hospital. Before he left, he said, "It was a hard lot, but I'm OK. I really didn't see the punch coming, but it was a good shot."

Pacquiao, ever the diplomat, said, "I'm surprised the fight was so easy. I worked hard in training camp and he was open for the right all night. It was nothing personal. I was just doing my job."

Bob Arum, whose Top Rank promotions handles Pacquiao, called his boxer "a monster" afterward, and started making noises about Pacquiao's becoming boxing's "all-time great."

Two things to consider there. As a promoter, Arum is wired for hyperbole. But also, he is no newcomer to this and began his career promoting no less than Muhammad Ali.

The only thing that might stop Pacquiao now is his desire to become a prominent government official someday soon in his beloved Philippines. There is even talk of the presidency someday.

Were that to happen now, it would make Pacquiao the answer to the trivia question: Which country has a president even more popular than Barack Obama?

For Hatton, a nice guy and tough competitor who is also beloved in his country, there may not be a lot of return trips upcoming.

Which, of course, will send the beer distributors of Las Vegas into deep depression.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

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